At a closed-door gathering in August with young men studying to be priests at the Catholic church’s seminary in Mundelein, Cardinal Blase Cupich boasted that the Archdiocese of Chicago’s “record” on sex abuse is “clean.”
“We are not what happened” in Pennsylvania, Cupich said, referring to a grand jury report that recently had been released in that state, showing decades of priests raping children and bishops covering up.
The cardinal also told the seminarians that an ongoing inquiry by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office into the handling of sexual predator priests in Illinois was no big deal because the archdiocese, the church’s arm in Cook and Lake counties, previously had turned over all relevant information.
But Wednesday night the archdiocese made public the names of 10 more former priests and deacons — some now dead — against whom “substantiated allegations” had been found they engaged in sexual misconduct with minors. The names, released in a statement issued by email, were added to a lengthy public list of ex-clerics.
Few details were provided about what the 10 were found to have done.
And Cupich’s press aides Paula Waters and Anne Maselli didn’t respond to requests for comment on the allegations or the timing of the announcement, which came the same night the archdiocese was announcing the closing or consolidation of a number of Catholic churches and schools on the South Side.
Thursday morning, Madigan put out a statement saying her investigation had prompted the disclosure of the new names in Chicago and at other Catholic dioceses in Illinois.
“Our initial review has found the number of Catholic clergy in Illinois with credible allegations of sexual abuse against minors is more extensive than the church previously has disclosed to the public,” Madigan said. “My investigation will continue in order to provide victims, parishioners and the public with a complete and accurate accounting of sexually abusive behavior with minors involving priests in Illinois.”
The Rockford Diocese, which includes McHenry County, “has disclosed 11 additional names,” according to Madigan’s office.
Her statement also said she “anticipates additional names will be disclosed as her office’s investigation continues.”
Regarding the 10 in the Chicago archdiocese, much of the abuse occurred years ago, according to the archdiocese, and the clerics who are still alive no longer are in ministry.
The new names include archdiocesan priests Edmund F. Burke, Thomas Carroll Crosby, Dominic Aloysius Diedrich and Thomas Francis Kelly.
The additions to the list also include deacons Patricio William Batuyong and Louis Wojtowicz, foreign priests Sleeva Raju Policetti and Czelaw Przbylo and religious order priests: Eusebio Pantoja and Carlos Peralta.
On Thursday, Cupich spokeswoman Maselli said his predecessor, the late Cardinal Francis George, had made the call not to include the names of priests who were dead when accusations were made against them.
“Cardinal George wanted the list to include only archdiocese priests who were still alive when the allegations came forward,” Maselli said.
According to Maselli, “All these cases were reported to the civil authorities, and all are from past decades.”
Some of the 10 whose names were released Wednesday had been the subject of news reports. In one case, in 2002, the archdiocese said that Policetti, who had been assigned to St. Tarcissus Church on the Northwest Side, was accused of sexual misconduct with a parish teen. The priest fled Chicago for his native India.
On Wednesday night, the written statement from the archdiocese said it previously had listed only those priests who were alive when allegations of abuse were received. It said Cupich expanded the list “to include all diocesan, extern and religious order priests and deacons with allegations of child sexual abuse that were substantiated by the Archdiocesan Independent Review Board or similar Archdiocesan process.
“While we are adding these names today based on determinations made in past years, we are not changing our current process for receiving and handling allegations and adding names.”
A day earlier, in a speech to about 200 people at a City Club breakfast in the Loop, Cupich had said transparency is one of the key elements needed to restore trust in bishops and repair a church battered by a worldwide abuse scandal that also threatens Cupich’s patron, Pope Francis. The pope has been accused of ignoring allegations of sexual misconduct by disgraced former Washington, D.C. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who reportedly had a hand in Cupich’s rise in the church hierarchy.
Despite Cupich’s comments Tuesday, Waters, the cardinal’s main spokeswoman, for weeks has refused to respond to questions about how many current priests from religious orders — who might live or work in the Chicago archdiocese but are part of independent Catholic orders including the Augustinians and Jesuits — face allegations of sexual misconduct.
When a Sun-Times reporter tried to ask Cupich about that at the end of his speech Tuesday, the cardinal quickly ducked into the kitchen of the restaurant where he had spoken and out the door, saying he was late for a meeting.
The attorney general’s office said the names of “credibly accused priests” from other Illinois dioceses can be found as follows:
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